Many trades have trades and professions have association in order to further specific causes related to the occupation of the association members. An association of private investigators is no different.
For the longest time, unions and associations for certain professions have been set up in order to promote a shared interest. Being part of an association can enable several small groups to form a single cohesive political force. Associations can help push for benefits for its members, engage in collective bargaining with other parties, organize action in pursuit of a common goal, and lobby state and federal officials in pursuit of a certain agenda. An association of private investigators, if it does things right, will usually be able to do all of these.
These associations can help PIs and PI firms in other ways. These groups can help smaller PIs and PI firms network and potentially help improve their business. Databases can be shared and contacts with equipment suppliers can gained, perhaps helping some private investigative firms save on costs. The associations may hold conventions that will help keep members updated on major developments in their industry. These associations might also be able to help smaller companies get noticed by listing them in directories or handing out referrals. Membership might even provide a chance to interview and hire investigators and other people with skills useful to a member PI firm. There might also be newsletters that keep the PI company updated on happenings relevant to the trade on a regular basis.
An association of private investigators tends to have the goal of advancing the trade and practice of private investigation and often of private security. Also, an association of private investigators tends to be composed of PI firms that tend to have the same focus in investigation. For instance, a particular association of private investigators might be composed only of PI firms that investigate insurance fraud or perhaps all the PIs in a certain association are experts in fraud related to the construction industry. Still, other groups may choose to be more inclusive of all kinds of PIs. Whatever the case, many PIs and PI firms join multiple organizations, though this is not always the case. There is a tendency however, for a PI to join at least one national association of private investigators and at least one state association of the same.
This is the reason why there are so many groups that advocate the trade of private investigation and the welfare of those employed in the industry. There are 17 national associations and almost 60 state associations. Often an association of private investigators will be in direct competition with another association. But in most cases PIs and PI groups can freely join as many organizations as they wish.
Many of the associations have very specific criteria for membership, such as having to be registered in a state or having to specialize in a certain subset of private investigation. Many also require the member to pay certain fees, though this is not a universal practice.